Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Secrets of Modular Songmaking

I admit it: I cheat. My skills as a musician, or "chops," as they say in the business, are gristly and fatty, i.e. bad. If I were to try to play each take all the way through, the errors would mount until the entire thing was a tremendous mess. Plus, if I expect to get episodes out even monthly, I've got to restrain my ambition in songmaking and crank shit out at a serviceable level of quality. So, I do it in pieces.

That's not technically cheating. Shit; punch-in, punch-out recording has been done for decades, and engineers regularly assemble final tracks from pieces of various takes. But I have been known to pick up the instrumentation for an entire chorus or verse and, pausing to look around to make sure nobody sees, I ctrl+C and ctrl+V my way to getting done quickly. Difficult backing vocals (which are nearly ANY, although I've been getting better recently) are prime targets for this.

Of course, this means that you can hear the suspicious similarities in performance from chorus to chorus, and getting the ends to match up cleanly is difficult. But hey, nobody's payin' me, right? If I can ever manage to spend months honing some serious songs, I wouldn't do such things, but I don't think I really want that, at this stage at least. I need to be behind a mask, puppet, or silly voice, because the kind of music I would want to make demands a kind of confidence and emotional honesty (debatably, arrogance) I don't have. Well, I may be arrogant, but in some other way that doesn't make me dress cool and get laid.

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